What triggered a massive blaze at the former Totem Lanes bowling alley, and two dumpster fires all within 12 hours, has Prince Rupert firefighters scratching their heads.
Prince Rupert deputy fire chief Jeff Beckwith said the cause of the early morning inferno at Totem Lanes on Aug. 4 is now classified as undetermined, but is still considered to be suspicious in nature.
Firefighters were called to the old bowling alley at approximately 4 a.m. and when they arrived the building was engulfed in flames. Beckwith said it took five or six hours to control the fire, and was on watch until the afternoon of Aug. 5.
“Unfortunately we’re not going to get an exact cause on this. We know where it started, but due to the damage that was caused we can’t find an igniting source,” said Beckwith.
The fire was started near the front entrance of the building, an area that Beckwith said didn’t have anything that would’ve kindled flames, such as heating or electrical devices.
“When you rule out everything that can cause fires, it leaves human error. We can’t prove it, but when you start eliminating all of the options that’s what it points to,” he said.
Firefighters had responded to a dumpster fire shortly before 3 a.m. that same morning, followed by another that afternoon. After deeming the bowling alley as suspicious, Prince Rupert RCMP began a criminal investigation.
The investigation is now at a halt, but Prince Rupert RCMP spokesperson Const. Matt Ericson said the file is still active.
Beckwith said the department cannot prove the incidents were related, noting it’s difficult to determine the cause of dumpster fires.
“It could be a cigarette or it could be intentional. There’s too many things for us to sift through in order to come up with a cause,” he said.
What will happen to the former Totem Lanes bowling alley now is up to its new owners, who purchased the property shortly before it went up in smoke and became a complete write-off.